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Indian Jeweler Accused in Multibillion Dollar Fraud is at Plush U.S. Hotel, Say Reports

Nirav Modi

The Ministry of External Affairs suspended the validity of the passport of billionaire diamond merchant Nirav Modi on Feb.16. Modi, who has been accused in a multi-crore banking fraud in India, meanwhile, has been spotted at a plush hotel at New York in the United States, reports said.

Modi is said to have been staying at a suite at JW Marriott’s Essex House, which is only a short walk away from his jewelry retail store at Madison Avenue, NDTV reported.

“This matter has no affiliation, legal or otherwise with Firestar International Limited which is the flagship enterprise of Mr. Nirav Modi,” the employees of his showroom on Madison Avenue said in a statement, according to the news channel.

The hotel staff where he is holed up said that Modi, who is generally quite reticent, was seen late in the night. Also, his wife Ami Modi was seen during the day going in and out of the building several times, the report added.

Along with Modi, the passport of his uncle-cum-business partner, Mehul Chinubhai Choksi, was also suspended with immediate effect for a period of four weeks.

“Modi and Choksi have been asked to respond within one week as to why their passports should not be impounded or revoked,” the MEA said in a statement. “After suspension of his passport, he cannot move to a different location. Wherever he is, he will remain in the same country,” the MEA spokesperson was reported as saying. The government on Feb.16 said that no one would be spared, whether the person was big or small did not matter.

If Modi and his accused accomplices fail to respond within the stipulated time, it will be assumed that they have no response to offer and the MEA will go ahead with the revocation of their passports. The move has been made on the advice of the Enforcement Directorate.

Modi has been accused of involvement in a multibillion dollar bank fraud. Modi, who grew up in a family based in Antwerp, Belgium, now faces a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act based on a complaint lodged by the state-run Punjab National Bank (PNB).

The Income Tax Department started investigating into the billionaire’s dealings after the government announced a multi-agency probe. As many as 29 properties and 105 accounts linked to Modi and his family have been attached. The ED has separately strengthened its searches at 35 premises and have got assets worth another Rs 500 crore, taking the stated value of confiscations to over Rs 5,600 crore until now.

Also, it has emerged that there is a possibility of Modi having Belgian papers, the Times of India reported.

The diamond merchant, who hobnobbed with various celebrities regularly, flew out from India on Jan.1 before the Central Bureau of Investigation started the probe against him, reported NDTV.

Many, including Congress President Rahul Gandhi, took to the social media, to comment on the scam.